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Apr 8, 2007 06:37 AM

Chapel Hill: Crooks for the first time in Yrs.

I was inivited to a meal at Crook's this week and was pleasantly surprised, not having been for several years and remembering only the burnt hushpuppies that I was compelled to send back to the kitchen. My wife had the crab cakes, I had the shrimp and grits, and we shared a cheese-and-breadcrumb stuffed artichoke appetizer. It was all tasty enough. The dessert, however, fell flat: the famous Mt. Airy Souffle cake tasted like yet another in a long line of dense, characterless chocolate tortes, a kind of mediocre truffle writ large. It seems that every restaurant these days serves some version of this pointless dessert.

Is the place worthwhile in the end? I suppose this depends on one's budget. At $45 or $50 per person (full meal plus drinks), we're looking for something a bit more interesting, but others might enjoy the straightfoward grub and the hopping atmosphere (the place was jammed on Friday night).

I plan by the way to reproduce the shrimp and gits dish at home. The recipe is given in Bill Neal's grits cook book. It's basically a shrimp, mushroom, bacon, and green onion stiry-fry served over cheese grits. A simple but nice dish. The problem, as always, is getting hold of decent shrimp.

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  1. I make a version of their shrimp and grits - a favorite requested by family and friends. I use cheddar cheese instead of parmesan (Bill Neal's recipe) and I'll admit without bragging that it is excellent. In fact - will be going to the Outer Banks in 2 weeks and plan to make it there.

    Decent shrimp - it helps to buy it on the coast or in the eastern part of the state. I can always find good shrimp in those areas.

    1. My dad makes a version of Neal's shrimp and grits recipe, but occasionally replaces the grits with neat cakes of parmesan-infused polenta. Makes a nice presentation.

      1. We JUST (I mean 1/2 hour ago) had our first ever experience at Crooks. And sure enough, I feel robbed. :)

        Robbed of our Sunday - We got there at 11:30, were seated at 12:15 and the food was there by 1PM. I figured I'd order some hushpuppies and fries, as they looked good coming out of the kitchen. Fries above average, I guess. Don't bother with the puppies.

        Everything was super slow, and I felt like we were imposing on them. This despite having only about 50% capacity (I counted 17 tables on the patio, 8 of them filled). Look, if you don't want to serve brunch, then just stay closed. Just because 'you can't f&*k up breakfast' is a popular restaurant maxim doesn't mean you should adopt it as a business plan.

        My wife's eggs new bern were cold and so salty that I didn't try a second bite. My fried oysters with eggs were OK, but nothing special. A companion's pancakes were really good, I guess. But for that kind of wait and inconvenience, *everything* should be good.

        Ahh... The price of high expectations... I've for sure had a worse breakfast at Honey's, but it wasn't nearly as expensive from a time or $ standpoint. And I've definitely had better meals at Honey's (and Honey's, let's remember, is a pay shower shy of being a truck stop). Maybe dinner is better, but based on breakfast and experience, I'd have to go to Honey's first.

        And with everything going on in Durham for food these days, that isn't going to happen.